By 1994, heavy metal had been declared all but dead in the wake of the grunge explosion… but one band was carrying the metal torch. Pantera basically invented the groove metal sound at a time when heavy metal wasn’t ‘cool’ anymore, and when it came time to make a new album — the band’s first since this new renaissance in popular music — instead of pandering, Pantera went the other way.

Heading into their seventh album, and third for a major label, Pantera were bigger than ever. 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power had brought the band their first taste of fame and fortune, raising expectations for what would come next. Some at their label felt it was the right time for the band to streamline the punishingly heavy sound they’d honed on Vulgar, as Metallica had done on their 1991 smash Black Album.

“[Metallica] had reached this pinnacle; now they were kind of tapering off and writing more commercial stuff, whereas we realized our strong point, once again, was sticking to heavy metal and making it as heavy as our style would allow,” Philip Anselmo told Loudwire in 2014. “Therefore, with 'Becoming', it is what it says. We were becoming. Honestly, we had arrived.”

“Becoming” encapsulates everything that made Pantera great in the first place, and can sum up the whole Far Beyond Driven album. There’s Phil’s brutal but technically great vocals, on top of his underrated lyrics. Rex Brown holds down the bass, playing in perfect correlation with the guitar to create a heavy sound. And of course, led by arguably the greatest heavy metal guitarist of all time, Dimebag Darrell rips his signature blues thrash guitar. His brother, Vinnie Paul backbones their groove sound with crazy but simple beats and a flawless chemistry with Dime.

Without significant radio or MTV play, Far Beyond Driven somehow debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts – sandwiched between weeks that featured Ace of Base and Bonnie Raitt in the top spot – making it arguably the heaviest and most unrelenting record ever to do so.

When asked by interviewers how they pulled it off, Dimebag Darrell simply replied, “Because it kicks ass, how else would it be No. 1?"

The Heaviest Album to Ever Hit No. 1

Check out the full story of Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven in the video above.

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